Gov. Josh Shapiro was in Lehigh County Thursday to propose a funding increase for student mental health.
He spoke with students at Parkland High School about the challenges they face, and where investments are needed most. Shapiro's budget calls for $500 million in new funding for student mental health.
"We know that students are crying out for help," said Gov. Shapiro.
Shapiro heard from some of those students from Parkland, Dieruff, and William Allen high schools to figure out where that money could help the most. Dieruff senior Eliana Rios said it starts with the teachers.
"I do want him to focus on training the teachers as well, because they're with us more than anybody else," said Rios.
In his news conference after speaking with a roundtable of students like Rios, Shapiro agreed with her suggestion.
"Teachers who are often on the front line of providing that kind of immediate care that a student needs, the teachers require additional training," said Gov. Shapiro.
Students were also concerned that, while the money could do a lot, it may not be distributed equitably because schools already have drastically different levels of funding.
"Speaking here with the students, we were kind of shocked when we heard that they have at least four psychiatrists in their school, and we have none," said Rios.
Shapiro said he's factoring that disparity into his budget.
"Rather than just everybody getting a dollar, the dollars are available, from a formula perspective, so it will drive toward the schools that need it most, based on the applications from that school district," said Gov. Shapiro.
The funding still has to be approved, but Shapiro was flanked by Democratic State Rep. Mike Schlossberg and Republican State Sen. Jarrett Coleman in his announcement, lending hope to Rios that bipartisan support could really make it happen.
"It's nice to see people investing into mental health for students, and even though I'm graduating, I wanted to see as we leave, and even the years after when I come back, I want to see improvement," said Rios.